Kitchn Love Letters

This $10 Find Is the Best Thing I’ve Ever Bought for My Oven

published Apr 3, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

I used to take turning on my oven for granted. I’d set it to a certain temperature and just assume that the preheat beep was telling the truth — that my oven was actually at the correct temp I had asked for. My oven had no reason to lie to me. Except it did! And I realized it when I got job working from my apartment kitchen in New York City, writing recipes for the home cook to prepare successfully in their own kitchens. Allow me to explain.

There is quite a bit of pressure that comes with writing recipes. When a home cook uses your recipe, they’re trusting you. If your recipe doesn’t work out, the person using it is let down and either goes hungry or winds up ordering takeout. See? That’s a lot of pressure! To relieve just a touch of that pressure, I decided to get a thermometer to hang in my oven. Just to be certain that when I say 400 degrees Fahrenheit, that is, indeed, what I mean.

It felt like a logical purchase: When I thought back on it, most of the professional kitchens I’ve worked in had a thermometer hanging in each oven or stored right within reach so you could check the temp if you needed to. (The latter was usually more for the pastry team, where accuracy was an absolute must versus the line cooks who just cared that the oven was hot.)

Credit: Lish Steiling

I spent a measly 10 bucks. And to this day, that’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent. Turns out, most ovens’ internal thermometers can vary wildly (we’re talking 50 degrees or more!) even from day to day. However, as long as you treat your hanging thermometer with a gentle touch and a bit of TLC, it will tell you, without a doubt, what is going on inside your closed oven door. (Don’t knock if off the racks, as that can mess with the calibration of the thermometer, and give a room-temperature thermometer a wipe now and again to avoid greasy buildup.) This one reads between 60 and 580 degrees Fahrenheit and is way more accurate than my actual oven. It also has more than 49,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, if that tells you anything.

Keep in mind that, if you are working in a gas oven, the temperature will fluctuate about 25 degrees during heat cycles, but that’s the only part that takes some getting used to. Now, with my trusty $10 oven thermometer, it feels as though someone has my back. My little buddy checks my good intention and helps me see when my oven is lying to me. I am totally comfortable asking its permission to see if it’s time for my chicken to go in.

Even if you’re not writing recipes for a living, I will still argue that you need one of these. Because you don’t want to let yourself down, do you? You don’t deserve burnt cookies! Or undercooked roasts! Pop one of these into your oven and it’ll tell you the truth. No matter what your oven’s display is saying. It’s simply a way of being a smarter cook without even trying. 

Do you use an oven thermometer? Tell us in the comments below.